Every invention and innovation is someone’s attempt to turn a problem into a solution. The results: Old neighborhoods revitalized, historic business districts rejuvenated, new festivals and cultural attractions generated and much more. “Spark! Places of Innovation,” a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian, highlights how innovation has shaped small towns across the country. The public is invited to attend the grand unveiling of “Spark!” on Friday, December 1, at 4:00 p.m. in the Local History Area on the 3rd Floor of the Nampa Public Library. The exhibition examining the ingenuity and tenacity of rural America will be on view through Saturday, January 13, 2024.
Nampa Public Library and the surrounding community has been chosen by the Idaho Humanities Council to host “Spark!” as part of the Museum on Main Street program—a national/state/local partnership to bring exhibitions and programs to rural cultural organizations. The exhibition is touring six communities in Idaho from May 20, 2023, through March 2, 2024.
“Spark! Places of Innovation” highlights innovation in rural America from the perspective of the people who lived it. The exhibition features stories and images from over 30 communities across the nation gathered through a crowdsourcing initiative. These places of innovation examined their existing assets, characteristics, people, resources and history to tackle the challenges of today with creative solutions and chart new directions for their future. Through photographs, hands-on interactives, objects and videos, “Spark!” reveals the leaders, challenges, successes and future of innovation in each featured town.
The exhibit is organized into four different categories of innovation: social, artistic, technological and cultural. Examples of innovation include the Art & Environment Initiative in Meadville, Pennsylvania, that collaborates with community members through public art projects that revitalize, beautify and help transform shared spaces. And the University of New Mexico-Taos Hub of Internet-based Vocation and Education (HIVE) that brought together educators, environmentalists and local leaders to create coworking space, a small business support center and on-site UMN-Taos classes.
“‘Spark!’ allows us to reflect on Nampa’s history, present and future and we are excited to explore what the future may hold for our community,” said Mike Sloan, Nampa Library’s Technology Manager. “We want to convene conversations about innovation in our own community and have developed local exhibitions and public programs to complement the Smithsonian exhibition.” Such free events include an innovative art contest, gel plate printing and designing a mousetrap car.
Designed for small-town museums, libraries and cultural organizations, “Spark!” will serve as a community meeting place for conversations about innovation. With the support and guidance of state humanities councils, these towns will develop complementary exhibits, host public programs and facilitate educational initiatives to raise people’s understanding about their own history, the joys and challenges of living rural, how change has impacted their community, and prompt discussion of goals for the future.
The exhibition is part of Museum on Main Street, a unique collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), state humanities councils across the nation, and local host organizations. “Spark!” was inspired by “Places of Invention,” an exhibition developed by the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. To learn more about “Spark! Places of Innovation” and other Museum on Main Street exhibitions, visit www.museumonmainstreet.org.
SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 70 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. For exhibition description and tour schedules, visit www.sites.si.edu.
For information on all library programs, visit our event calendar at nampalibrary.org/calendar or phone 208-468-4474. The Nampa Public Library is located at 215 12th Ave S. in Nampa. All programs and events at the library are provided to the public free of charge.